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The Rush For Africa Is Getting Crowded — Who Will Be Shut Out?

African countries have shown through the Ukrainian war that their support should not be taken for granted. Chinese, Americans, Europeans and others are competing for influence on a continent that has become a global prize.

photo of Central business district Nairobi, Kenya

Central business district Nairobi, Kenya

Donwilson Odhiambo/ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — There was a time when the great powers of the world would compete against each other to conquer vast territories of the African continent. Today, they are instead vying to seduce, convince, and sometimes buy the support of countries that have never been so eagerly courted.

The 55 African States carry real value (no matter the criterion — be it economic, political, security, demographic) that leaves no one indifferent. Within two decades, China has become the lead partner of the continent, supplanting the former colonial powers; Russia is regaining its areas of influence from the old Soviet days, spearheaded by the Wagner paramilitary group; the Americans are back too; Turkey, India, Japan, and Brazil also have a dog in the fight.

The war in Ukraine has elevated the stakes, with the notable reluctance of numerous African countries to condemn the Russian invasion. This has made clear that Africans will no longer accept to be taken for granted by the West — and resent the massive support for Ukraine where their misfortunes have too often been ignored.

"We" are Africa

This week, China's newly installed Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, made his first foreign trip, and he chose Africa. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, headquarters of the African Union, he had a message that flattered the continent's leaders:

"Our world is changing like never before, and the collective rise of developing countries is irreversible," he said. “The advent of an Asian century and an African century is no longer a distant dream. [...] We should boost the representation and voice of developing countries, especially those of African countries, in the UN Security Council and other international organizations.”

The speech was particularly clever in the way it positioned China — the second largest economy in the world, sometimes criticized for the predatory nature of its companies — as a developing country like those on the African continent. Using the “we” for the countries of the South, well, is a bit forced.

But these remarks by the Chinese minister echo a similar speech heard last month in Washington. “We need more African voices in international conversations,” U.S. leaders said at a US-Africa Summit hosted by President Joe Biden. The name of China was barely mentioned at the summit, but was obviously on everyone's mind.

Photo of China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang next a Chinese flag and a stuffed panda

China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang

Wikimedia Commons

Europe or China?

In this “great game” for future influence in Africa, Europe has the handicap of its past and its current shortcomings, but is also guilty of having turned away from the continent in recent decades. France, in particular, has to face a hostile climate among some of the youth in French-speaking countries, as France's Secretary of State for Development, Chrysalys Zacharopoulou, realized this week on a visit to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Europe has neither the flexibility nor the means of Beijing.

Last year, under the French presidency, a European Union-Africa Summit took place in Brussels, just days before the invasion of Ukraine. EU members launched a “Global Gateway” fund, to compete with the Chinese Silk Roads, but the bloc has neither the flexibility nor the means of Beijing.

This suitors' ball in Africa should push Europe to reinvent its relationship with this continent — remembering it can claim to be the closest geographically, and historically. But for Africa to actually consider France, and Europe, a natural ally for the future, will require a lot of work. It is both necessary, and urgent.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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